Monday, February 12, 2007

Anger: Residual Anger

Residual anger refers to holding onto irritation from one situation and allowing it to seep into another situation. Be careful with this one, it is insidious. Residual anger can seep into a later encounter with the same person or it can come up in a seemingly unconnected situation with another person. Residual anger erodes your heart, bit by bit.

One participant realized that it was residual anger that had crept into her relationship with her father. He had done something earlier in the year that frustrated her and she hadn’t dealt with it completely, with him or with her. Later in the year, another situation came up that was much milder, but her response was laden with the continued irritation from earlier.

Sound familiar? I think this is something we all do whether it is conscious or unconscious. What to do? Make amends. Do what you need to do to make the situation right for you and the other person, if there is someone else. If that doesn’t seem possible (you don’t feel safe with the other person or the other person is really a situation), then you can clear the anger within you. First, fill yourself full of love, acceptance, and compassion. If necessary, picture someone in your mind whom you love very much and let the feeling you have for that person fill your heart. Then picture the challenging person or situation in front of you. Send them all the love you are capable of sending. The first time you do the exercise, you may find that you are only capable of sending 30 seconds of love and that is all. Keep doing it daily for as long as it takes to feel full love for the person.

I had a horrible run in years ago with someone that left me feeling angry and hurt. Facing her again was completely out of the question at the time because of the rage she sent at me. Being with her again felt very unsafe. I did this exercise for 2 years before a felt a complete release of the anger I had. It was well worth the effort. The anger I had toward her was eating my heart (I didn’t begin the exercise for 4 years after the incident). Initially, doing the exercise just helped me slow the negative slide and that was worthwhile in itself. Ultimately, the love completely bathed the anger in light.